From the June/July 2018 Issue  

Mix & Match

Writer Marirose Krall  |  Photographer Gianni Franchellucci  |  Designer Robert Lynch Steed, RLS Architecture & Interior Design  |  Location Jersey City, NJ
  • Charlie, the owners’ Smooth Fox Terrier, relaxes on an outdoor sofa surrounded by colorful finds from home and abroad.

  • Robert Lynch Steed (left) and Matthew Adam Smith enjoy a warm afternoon on the roof of their Jersey City brownstone.

  • KITCHEN | Black cabinetry set against a red backsplash creates a bold and contemporary ambience. Low-profile counter stools have style and presence without interrupting sight lines between table and galley.

  • COLORFUL CARPET | A runner in the kitchen picks up the red, yellow and black in the room and adds an assortment of other colors for good measure. Owner Robert Lynch Steed made Charlie’s built-in dog bed.

  • Mod-looking chairs join with a rustic table and bench and an antique Chinese sideboard for an eclectic look in the dining area. The yellow wall at left features a stenciled pattern created by the homeowners.

  • A hallway seating area blends a classic sofa and console with an antique “Enter” sign and throw pillows made by Steed’s mother.

  • LIVING ROOM | An orange leather sofa with polished nickel legs brings color to the living room.

  • ARMCHAIRS | Two armchairs in a reserved off-white hue balance out the orange sofa. Steed’s mother made the pillows on the armchairs.

  • GREEN DEN | In the den, deep green walls offer a rich backdrop for the neutral furnishings. Large windows ensure an abundance of natural light.

Jersey City homeowners bring a world of styles to their 1893 brownstone.

The appealing neighborhood was one reason why Robert Lynch Steed and Matthew Adam Smith were drawn to their 19th-century Jersey City brownstone. “It’s the perfect balance: very close to New York City, but calm, clean and quiet,” Steed says. “It’s a great community.” In addition, Steed, principal of RLS Architecture & Interior Design in South Orange, found the character of the structure appealing, especially “the three levels and the openness between the spaces.”

“We tried to create a cozy, comfortable and informal ambience. Playing with pops of color throughout allowed us to achieve our vision.”  Robert lynch Steed, Homeowner and Designer RLS Architecture & Interior Design

Steed describes his personality as “fairly reserved and measured in demeanor both professionally and personally, but I try to find the fun in whatever I’m doing.” That much is evident in the home’s décor, which incorporates a wide assortment of vivid colors into a mostly neutral foundation. Steed explains his approach to furnishing the home: “We tried to create a cozy, comfortable and informal ambience. Playing with pops of color throughout allowed us to achieve our vision.”

Bold hues are prominent—in measured amounts—in just about every space. In the living room, an orange sofa topped with multicolored pillows stands out against the subtler walls and floor. In another distinctive touch, a “gallery” of empty frames hangs above that sofa. In the family room, deep green walls create a counterpoint to the sedate grays in the sofa and carpet. The master bedroom is accessorized with a bright red chair and blue carpet, yet it still manages to maintain a soothing feeling thanks to subdued walls, window treatments and bedding.

The kitchen features a fire-engine red tile backsplash and a peninsula with high-gloss red cabinetry—both of which were installed by previous owners. One of Steed’s contributions—a striped runner down the length of the galley-type space—repeats the red and adds just about every other color in the spectrum. In addition, Steed constructed a built-in dog bed for the couple’s Smooth Fox Terrier, Charlie. The bright yellow open cabinet with its blue “doggie divan” is nestled into the perimeter cabinetry, breaking up the expanse of black.

In the dining area, the owners created an original pattern on one wall. The multitoned design in shades of yellow with gray outlines “is a stencil designed by us,” Steed says. The wall features both deep and light colors with artistically “unfinished” areas at the edges. The owners restored a blue antique Chinese sideboard that adds another hit of bright color.

The kitchen is Steed’s favorite space in the house. “Cooking, for me, is a form of therapy,” he explains. “The kitchen is also the spot where everyone hangs out.”

Studying architecture in his native Sao Paulo, Brazil, Steed learned “the unmatched value of an integrated approach to design.” That kind of integration played a key role in these interiors, where Steed and Smith included modern, midcentury and antique elements.

The varying styles merge effectively and pleasingly. On the roof deck, the homeowners included two small contemporary tables of green and yellow powder-coated steel. The vintage lantern that sits atop one of those modern tables was purchased at an antiques fair in Massachusetts. Though the pieces may have been built in different centuries, they work well together. Likewise, a milk can in the kitchen—also found at that New England antiques fair—sits just a few steps away from white Crate & Barrel stools that have a midcentury vibe.

The owners’ foraging expeditions aren’t limited to the United States. “We have a rule that we take at least one international vacation every year, not counting any trips back to Brazil to see family and friends,” Steed notes. During those annual jaunts, the couple have found countless items to incorporate into their home. They purchased a coffee table with a bright tile design in Morocco, and now it’s a focal point on their rooftop deck. Indoors, tiny sculptures—Colombian street fair finds—adorn a side table in a corridor off the kitchen. Steed and Smith discovered a large sculpture that now sits in their living room at an antiques sale in London. A guest bedroom features three black-and-white pieces of art on the wall beside the bed—souvenirs from a trip to Portugal.

The result of this colorful, wide-ranging collection of worldly goods is a design that is sophisticated yet spontaneous, cultured yet cozy. This home, Steed says, “is consistent with my ideas about interior design, which is all about bringing together different and often surprising elements and styles to create an eclectic, but hopefully balanced and peaceful, aesthetic that works whether we’re home alone or hosting a dinner party for 20 people.”